Head of The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context
Vol. 2. Num. 2. - 2010. Pages

A stepwise approach to identify intellectual disabilities in the criminal justice system

[A stepwise approach to identify intellectual disabilities in the criminal justice system]

Erik Søndenaa, Tom Palmstierna, and Valentina Cabral Iversen


A significant proportion of the prison inmates have an IQ level corresponding to intellectual disability (ID) or borderline ID. These persons are rarely identified and subsequently not offered any compensation for their learning and comprehension deficits. The purpose of this study was to explore and help providing methods for better identification of ID at an early stage during criminal proceedings. 143 randomly selected prisoners serving sentences in prisons were assessed using The Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence(WASI) and the Hayes Ability Screening Index (HASI) while a semi-structured interview was carried out to obtain data on health as well as social and criminological issues. A total of 10.8% (n = 15) of the participants showed an IQ below 70. From previous analyses of the semi-structured interview, a checklist was extracted and found to have good predictive validity on ID (AUC = 93%). The resulting identification referred 32% (n = 46) of the sample for comprehensive assessment. Within this group, all participants with an IQ below 70 were included. Identification through this checklist, the screening and a full assessment is essential in improving the quality of the services.


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